IN 1954, when the Supreme Court banned state-imposed school segregation, almost two dozen states had laws that regulated citizens on the basis of their race. There were laws to prevent interracial marriage, laws requiring racially separate schools, and laws to limit access to public facilities. In most southern states, wherever interracial contact might occur, there was a law to prevent or regulate it. This legal superstructure was purposeful, not haphazard. It reinforced a caste system with a code of behavior based on white supremacy. The code's primary intent was to contain and control black people. Deviant whites could sample black life at no risk other than ostracism by their own kind; blacks who stepped outside the bounds ran afoul of the law, the police, and the courts.
The unwritten rules of caste required black deference.